Agamemnon by Aeschylus - 24 γράμματα / Πολυχώρος … · 2012-01-29 · When o’er...

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Translated by E. D. A. Morshead Agamemnon Aeschylus Orange Street Press Classics
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Transcript of Agamemnon by Aeschylus - 24 γράμματα / Πολυχώρος … · 2012-01-29 · When o’er...

  • Tran


    d by

    E. D

    . A. M



    Agamemnon Aeschylus

    Orange Street Press

  • Copyright statement:This text is published free of charge and can be freely distributed and redistributed in any medium withoutpenalty. It is published under the fair use provision of United States Copyright laws and is intended solelyfor non-profit, educational, scholarly and private entertainment use.

    Adobe PDF formatting by James M. Eschpublished in 1998 by Orange Street Press[email protected]

    This text is based upon the edition found in The Internet Classics Archive by Daniel C. Stevenson, WebAtomics. World Wide Web presentation is copyright (C) 1994-1998, Daniel C. Stevenson, Web Atomics. Allrights reserved under international and pan-American copyright conventions, including the right ofreproduction in whole or in part in any form. Direct permission requests to [email protected]

  • 3

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    DDDDDrrrrraaaaammmmmaaaaatis Ptis Ptis Ptis Ptis Pererererersososososonaenaenaenaenae





    AGAMEMNON, King of Argos

    CASSANDRA, daughter of Priam, and slave of AGAMEMNON

    AEGISTHUS, son of Thyestes, cousin of AGAMEMNON

    Servants, Attendants, Soldiers


    Before the palace of AGAMEMNON in Argos. In front of the palace thereare statues of the gods, and altars prepared for sacrifice. It is night. On theroof of the palace can be discerned a WATCHMAN.


    I pray the gods to quit me of my toils,

    To close the watch I keep, this livelong year;

    For as a watch-dog lying, not at rest,

    Propped on one arm, upon the palace-roof

    Of Atreus' race, too long, too well I know

    The starry conclave of the midnight sky,

    Too well, the splendours of the firmament,

    The lords of light, whose kingly aspect shows-

    What time they set or climb the sky in turn-

    The year's divisions, bringing frost or fire.

  • 4

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    And now, as ever, am I set to mark

    When shall stream up the glow of signal-flame,

    The bale-fire bright, and tell its Trojan tale-

    Troy town is ta'en: such issue holds in hope

    She in whose woman's breast beats heart of man.

    Thus upon mine unrestful couch I lie,

    Bathed with the dews of night, unvisited

    By dreams-ah me!-for in the place of sleep

    Stands Fear as my familiar, and repels

    The soft repose that would mine eyelids seal.

    And if at whiles, for the lost balm of sleep,

    I medicine my soul with melody

    Of trill or song-anon to tears I turn,

    Wailing the woe that broods upon this home,

    Not now by honour guided as of old-

    But now at last fair fall the welcome hour

    That sets me free, whene'er the thick night glow

    With beacon-fire of hope deferred no more.

    All hail! A beacon-light is seen reddening the distant sky.

    Fire of the night, that brings my spirit day,

    Shedding on Argos light, and dance, and song,

  • 5

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    Greetings to fortune, hail!

    Let my loud summons ring within the ears

    Of Agamemnon's queen, that she anon

    Start from her couch and with a shrill voice cry

    A joyous welcome to the beacon-blaze,

    For Ilion's fall; such fiery message gleams

    From yon high flame; and I, before the rest,

    Will foot the lightsome measure of our joy;

    For I can say, My master's dice fell fair-

    Behold! the triple sice, the lucky flame!

    Now be my lot to clasp, in loyal love,

    The hand of him restored, who rules our home:

    Home-but I say no more: upon my tongue

    Treads hard the ox o' the adage.

    Had it voice,

    The home itself might soothliest tell its tale;

    I, of set will, speak words the wise may learn,

    To others, nought remember nor discern.

    He withdraws. The CHORUS OF ARGIVE ELDERS enters, each leaning on astaff. During their song CLYTEMNESTRA appears in the background, kin-dling the altars.

  • 6

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    CHORUS singingCHORUS singingCHORUS singingCHORUS singingCHORUS singing

    Ten livelong years have rolled away,

    Since the twin lords of sceptred sway,

    By Zeus endowed with pride of place,

    The doughty chiefs of Atreus' race,

    Went forth of yore,

    To plead with Priam, face to face,

    Before the judgment-seat of War!

    A thousand ships from Argive land

    Put forth to bear the martial band,

    That with a spirit stern and strong

    Went out to right the kingdom's wrong-

    Pealed, as they went, the battle-song,

    Wild as the vultures' cry;

    When o'er the eyrie, soaring high,

    In wild bereaved agony,

    Around, around, in airy rings,

    They wheel with oarage of their wings,

    But not the eyas-brood behold,

    That called them to the nest of old;

    But let Apollo from the sky,

    Or Pan, or Zeus, but hear the cry,

    The exile cry, the wail forlorn,

  • 7

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    Of birds from whom their home is torn-

    On those who wrought the rapine fell,

    Heaven sends the vengeful fiends of hell.

    Even so doth Zeus, the jealous lord

    And guardian of the hearth and board,

    Speed Atreus' sons, in vengeful ire,

    'Gainst Paris-sends them forth on fire,

    Her to buy back, in war and blood,

    Whom one did wed but many woo'd!

    And many, many, by his will,

    The last embrace of foes shall feel,

    And many a knee in dust be bowed,

    And splintered spears on shields ring loud,

    Of Trojan and of Greek, before

    That iron bridal-feast be o'er!

    But as he willed 'tis ordered all,

    And woes, by heaven ordained, must fall-

    Unsoothed by tears or spilth of wine

    Poured forth too late, the wrath divine

    Glares vengeance on the flameless shrine.

    And we in grey dishonoured eld,

    Feeble of frame, unfit were held

  • 8

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    To join the warrior array

    That then went forth unto the fray:

    And here at home we tarry, fain

    Our feeble footsteps to sustain,

    Each on his staff-so strength doth wane,

    And turns to childishness again.

    For while the sap of youth is green,

    And, yet unripened, leaps within,

    The young are weakly as the old,

    And each alike unmeet to hold

    The vantage post of war!

    And ah! when flower and fruit are o'er,

    And on life's tree the leaves are sere,

    Age wendeth propped its journey drear,

    As forceless as a child, as light

    And fleeting as a dream of night

    Lost in the garish day!

    But thou, O child of Tyndareus,

    Queen Clytemnestra, speak! and say

    What messenger of joy to-day

    Hath won thine ear? what welcome news,

    That thus in sacrificial wise

    E'en to the city's boundaries

    Thou biddest altar-fires arise?

  • 9

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    Each god who doth our city guard,

    And keeps o'er Argos watch and ward

    From heaven above, from earth below-

    The mighty lords who rule the skies,

    The market's lesser deities,

    To each and all the altars glow,

    Piled for the sacrifice!

    And here and there, anear, afar,

    Streams skyward many a beacon-star,

    Conjur'd and charm'd and kindled well

    By pure oil's soft and guileless spell,

    Hid now no more

    Within the palace' secret store.

    O queen, we pray thee, whatsoe'er,

    Known unto thee, were well revealed,

    That thou wilt trust it to our ear,

    And bid our anxious heart be healed!

    That waneth now unto despair-

    Now, waxing to a presage fair,

    Dawns, from the altar, to scare

    From our rent hearts the vulture Care.

  • 10

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    strophe 1strophe 1strophe 1strophe 1strophe 1

    List! for the power is mine, to chant on high

    The chiefs' emprise, the strength that omens gave!

    List! on my soul breathes yet a harmony,

    From realms of ageless powers, and strong to save!

    How brother kings, twin lords of one command,

    Led forth the youth of Hellas in their flower,

    Urged on their way, with vengeful spear and brand,

    By warrior-birds, that watched the parting hour.

    Go forth to Troy, the eagles seemed to cry-

    And the sea-kings obeyed the sky-kings' word,

    When on the right they soared across the sky,

    And one was black, one bore a white tail barred.

    High o'er the palace were they seen to soar,

    Then lit in sight of all, and rent and tare,

    Far from the fields that she should range no more,

    Big with her unborn brood, a mother-hare.

    Ah woe and well-a-day! but be the issue fair!

  • 11

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    antistrophe 1antistrophe 1antistrophe 1antistrophe 1antistrophe 1

    And one beheld, the soldier-prophet true,

    And the two chiefs, unlike of soul and will,

    In the twy-coloured eagles straight he knew,

    And spake the omen forth, for good and in.

    Go forth, he cried, and Priam's town shall fall.

    Yet long the time shall be; and flock and herd,

    The people's wealth, that roam before the wall,

    Shall force hew down, when Fate shall give the word,

    But O beware! lest wrath in Heaven abide,

    To dim the glowing battle-forge once more,

    And mar the mighty curb of Trojan pride,

    The steel of vengeance, welded as for war!

    For virgin Artemis bears jealous hate

    Against the royal house, the eagle-pair,

    Who rend the unborn brood, insatiate-

    Yea, loathes their banquet on the quivering hare.

    Ah woe and well-a-day! but be the issue fair!

  • 12

    Aeschylus, agamemnon


    For well she loves-the goddess kind and mild-

    The tender new-born cubs of lions bold,

    Too weak to range-and well the sucking child

    Of every beast that roams by wood and wold.

    So to the Lord of Heaven she prayeth still,

    "Nay, if it must be, be the omen true!

    Yet do the visioned eagles presage ill;

    The end be well, but crossed with evil too!"

    Healer Apollo! be her wrath controll'd

    Nor weave the long delay of thwarting gales,

    To war against the Danaans and withhold

    From the free ocean-waves their eager sails!

    She craves, alas! to see a second life

    Shed forth, a curst unhallowed sacrifice-

    'Twixt wedded souls, artificer of strife,

    And hate that knows not fear, and fell device.

    At home there tarries like a lurking snake,

    Biding its time, a wrath unreconciled,

    A wily watcher, passionate to slake,

  • 13

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    In blood, resentment for a murdered child.

    Such was the mighty warning, pealed of yore-

    Amid good tidings, such the word of fear,

    What time the fateful eagles hovered o'er

    The kings, and Calchas read the omen clear.

    In strains like his, once more,

    Sing woe and well-a-day! but be the issue fair!

    strophe 2strophe 2strophe 2strophe 2strophe 2

    Zeus-if to The Unknown

    That name of many names seem good-

    Zeus, upon Thee I call.

    Thro' the mind's every road

    I passed, but vain are all,

    Save that which names thee Zeus, the Highest One,

    Were it but mine to cast away the load,

    The weary load, that weighs my spirit down.

    antistrophe 2antistrophe 2antistrophe 2antistrophe 2antistrophe 2

    He that was Lord of old,

    In full-blown pride of place and valour bold,

  • 14

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    Hath fallen and is gone, even as an old tale told:

    And he that next held sway,

    By stronger grasp o'erthrown

    Hath pass'd away!

    And whoso now shall bid the triumph-chant arise

    To Zeus, and Zeus alone,

    He shall be found the truly wise.

    strophe 3strophe 3strophe 3strophe 3strophe 3

    'Tis Zeus alone who shows the perfect way

    Of knowledge: He hath ruled,

    Men shall learn wisdom, by affliction schooled.

    In visions of the night, like dropping rain,

    Descend the many memories of pain

    Before the spirit's sight: through tears and dole

    Comes wisdom o'er the unwilling soul-

    A boon, I wot, of all Divinity,

    That holds its sacred throne in strength, above the sky!

    antistrophe 3antistrophe 3antistrophe 3antistrophe 3antistrophe 3

    And then the elder chief, at whose command

    The fleet of Greece was manned,

  • 15

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    Cast on the seer no word of hate,

    But veered before the sudden breath of Fate-

    Ah, weary while! for, ere they put forth sail,

    Did every store, each minish'd vessel, fail,

    While all the Achaean host

    At Aulis anchored lay,

    Looking across to Chalcis and the coast

    Where refluent waters welter, rock, and sway;

    strophe 4strophe 4strophe 4strophe 4strophe 4

    And rife with ill delay

    From northern Strymon blew the thwarting blast-

    Mother of famine fell,

    That holds men wand'ring still

    Far from the haven where they fain would be!-

    And pitiless did waste

    Each ship and cable, rotting on the sea,

    And, doubling with delay each weary hour,

    Withered with hope deferred th' Achaeans' warlike flower.

    But when, for bitter storm, a deadlier relief,

    And heavier with ill to either chief,

  • 16

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    Pleading the ire of Artemis, the seer avowed,

    The two Atreidae smote their sceptres on the plain,

    And, striving hard, could not their tears restrain!

    antistrophe 4antistrophe 4antistrophe 4antistrophe 4antistrophe 4

    And then the elder monarch spake aloud-

    Ill lot were mine, to disobey!

    And ill, to smite my child, my household's love and pride!

    To stain with virgin blood a father's hands, and slay

    My daughter, by the altar's side!

    'Twixt woe and woe I dwell-

    I dare not like a recreant fly,

    And leave the league of ships, and fail each true ally;

    For rightfully they crave, with eager fiery mind,

    The virgin's blood, shed forth to lull the adverse wind-

    God send the deed be well!

    strophe 5strophe 5strophe 5strophe 5strophe 5

    Thus on his neck he took

    Fate's hard compelling yoke;

    Then, in the counter-gale of will abhorr'd, accursed,

    To recklessness his shifting spirit veered-

    Alas! that Frenzy, first of ills and worst,

  • 17

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    With evil craft men's souls to sin hath ever stirred!

    And so he steeled his heart-ah, well-a-day-

    Aiding a war for one false woman's sake,

    His child to slay,

    And with her spilt blood make

    An offering, to speed the ships upon their way!

    antistrophe 5antistrophe 5antistrophe 5antistrophe 5antistrophe 5

    Lusting for war, the bloody arbiters

    Closed heart and ears, and would nor hear nor heed

    The girl-voice plead,

    Pity me, Father! nor her prayers,

    Nor tender, virgin years.

    So, when the chant of sacrifice was done,

    Her father bade the youthful priestly train

    Raise her, like some poor kid, above the altar-stone,

    From where amid her robes she lay

    Sunk all in swoon away-

    Bade them, as with the bit that mutely tames the steed,

    Her fair lips' speech refrain,

    Lest she should speak a curse on Atreus' home and seed,

  • 18

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    strophe 6strophe 6strophe 6strophe 6strophe 6

    So, trailing on the earth her robe of saffron dye,

    With one last piteous dart from her beseeching eye.

    Those that should smite she smote

    Fair, silent, as a pictur'd form, but fain

    To plead, Is all forgot?

    How oft those halls of old,

    Wherein my sire high feast did hold,

    Rang to the virginal soft strain,

    When I, a stainless child,

    Sang from pure lips and undefiled,

    Sang of my sire, and all

    His honoured life, and how on him should fall

    Heaven's highest gift and gain!

    antistrophe 6antistrophe 6antistrophe 6antistrophe 6antistrophe 6

    And then-but I beheld not, nor can tell,

    What further fate befell:

    But this is sure, that Calchas' boding strain

    Can ne'er be void or vain.

    This wage from justice' hand do sufferers earn,

    The future to discern:

    And yet-farewell, O secret of To-morrow!

  • 19

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    Fore-knowledge is fore-sorrow.

    Clear with the clear beams of the morrow's sun,

    The future presseth on.

    Now, let the house's tale, how dark soe'er,

    Find yet an issue fair!-

    So prays the loyal, solitary band

    That guards the Apian land.

    They turn to CLYTEMNESTRA, who leaves the altars and comes forward.


    O queen, I come in reverence of thy sway-

    For, while the ruler's kingly seat is void,

    The loyal heart before his consort bends.

    Now-be it sure and certain news of good,

    Or the fair tidings of a flatt'ring hope,

    That bids thee spread the light from shrine to shrine,

    I, fain to hear, yet grudge not if thou hide.


    As saith the adage, From the womb of Night

    Spring forth, with promise fair, the young child Light.

    Ay-fairer even than all hope my news-

    By Grecian hands is Priam's city ta'en!

  • 20

    Aeschylus, agamemnon


    What say'st thou? doubtful heart makes treach'rous ear.


    Hear then again, and plainly-Troy is ours!


    Thrills thro' heart such joy as wakens tears.



    But hast thou proof, to make assurance sure?


    Go to; I have-unless the god has lied.


    Hath some night-vision won thee to belief ?


    Out on all presage of a slumb'rous soul!

    LEADER But wert thou cheered by Rumour's wingless word?

  • 21

    Aeschylus, agamemnon


    Peace-thou dost chide me as a credulous girl.

    LEADER Say then, how long ago the city fell?


    Even in this night that now brings forth the dawn.

    LEADER Yet who so swift could speed the message here?


    From Ida's top Hephaestus, lord of fire,

    Sent forth his sign; and on, and ever on,

    Beacon to beacon sped the courier-flame.

    From Ida to the crag, that Hermes loves,

    Of Lemnos; thence unto the steep sublime

    Of Athos, throne of Zeus, the broad blaze flared.

    Thence, raised aloft to shoot across the sea,

    The moving light, rejoicing in its strength,

    Sped from the pyre of pine, and urged its way,

    In golden glory, like some strange new sun,

    Onward, and reached Macistus' watching heights.

    There, with no dull delay nor heedless sleep,

    The watcher sped the tidings on in turn,

    Until the guard upon Messapius' peak

    Saw the far flame gleam on Euripus' tide,

    And from the high-piled heap of withered furze

  • 22

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    Lit the new sign and bade the message on.

    Then the strong light, far-flown and yet undimmed,

    Shot thro' the sky above Asopus' plain,

    Bright as the moon, and on Cithaeron's crag

    Aroused another watch of flying fire.

    And there the sentinels no whit disowned,

    But sent redoubled on, the hest of flame

    Swift shot the light, above Gorgopis' bay,

    To Aegiplanctus' mount, and bade the peak

    Fail not the onward ordinance of fire.

    And like a long beard streaming in the wind,

    Full-fed with fuel, roared and rose the blaze,

    And onward flaring, gleamed above the cape,

    Beneath which shimmers the Saronic bay,

    And thence leapt light unto Arachne's peak,

    The mountain watch that looks upon our town.

    Thence to th' Atreides' roof-in lineage fair,

    A bright posterity of Ida's fire.

    So sped from stage to stage, fulfilled in turn,

    Flame after flame, along the course ordained,

    And lo! the last to speed upon its way

    Sights the end first, and glows unto the goal.

    And Troy is ta'en, and by this sign my lord

    Tells me the tale, and ye have learned my word.

  • 23

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    LEADER To heaven, O queen, will I upraise new song:

    But, wouldst thou speak once more, I fain would hear

    From first to last the marvel of the tale.


    Think you-this very morn-the Greeks in Troy,

    And loud therein the voice of utter wail!

    Within one cup pour vinegar and oil,

    And look! unblent, unreconciled, they war.

    So in the twofold issue of the strife

    Mingle the victor's shout, the captives' moan.

    For all the conquered whom the sword has spared

    Cling weeping-some unto a brother slain,

    Some childlike to a nursing father's form,

    And wail the loved and lost, the while their neck

    Bows down already 'neath the captive's chain.

    And lo! the victors, now the fight is done,

    Goaded by restless hunger, far and wide

    Range all disordered thro' the town, to snatch

    Such victual and such rest as chance may give

    Within the captive halls that once were Troy-

    Joyful to rid them of the frost and dew,

    Wherein they couched upon the plain of old-

    Joyful to sleep the gracious night all through,

  • 24

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    Unsummoned of the watching sentinel.

    Yet let them reverence well the city's gods,

    The lords of Troy, tho' fallen, and her shrines;

    So shall the spoilers not in turn be spoiled.

    Yea, let no craving for forbidden gain

    Bid conquerors yield before the darts of greed.

    For we need yet, before the race be won,

    Homewards, unharmed, to round the course once more.

    For should the host wax wanton ere it come,

    Then, tho'the sudden blow of fate be spared,

    Yet in the sight of gods shall rise once more

    The great wrong of the slain, to claim revenge.

    Now, hearing from this woman's mouth of mine,

    The tale and eke its warning, pray with me,

    Luck sway the scale, with no uncertain poise,

    For my fair hopes are changed to fairer joys.


    A gracious word thy woman's lips have told,

    Worthy a wise man's utterance, O my queen;

    Now with clear trust in thy convincing tale

    I set me to salute the gods with song,

    Who bring us bliss to counterpoise our pain. CLYTEMNESTRA goes intothe palace.

  • 25

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    CHORUS singingCHORUS singingCHORUS singingCHORUS singingCHORUS singing

    Zeus, Lord of heaven! and welcome night

    Of victory, that hast our might

    With all the glories crowned!

    On towers of Ilion, free no more,

    Hast flung the mighty mesh of war,

    And closely girt them round,

    Till neither warrior may 'scape,

    Nor stripling lightly overleap

    The trammels as they close, and close,

    Till with the grip of doom our foes

    In slavery's coil are bound!

    Zeus, Lord of hospitality,

    In grateful awe I bend to thee-

    'Tis thou hast struck the blow!

    At Alexander, long ago,

    We marked thee bend thy vengeful bow,

    But long and warily withhold

    The eager shaft, which, uncontrolled

    And loosed too soon or launched too high,

    Had wandered bloodless through the sky.

  • 26

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    strophe 1strophe 1strophe 1strophe 1strophe 1

    Zeus, the high God!-whate'er be dim in doubt,

    This can our thought track out-

    The blow that fells the sinner is of God,

    And as he wills, the rod

    Of vengeance smiteth sore. One said of old,

    The gods list not to hold

    A reckoning with him whose feet oppress

    The grace of holiness-

    An impious word! for whenso'er the sire

    Breathed forth rebellious fire-

    What time his household overflowed the measure

    Of bliss and health and treasure-

    His children's children read the reckoning plain,

    At last, in tears and pain.

    On me let weal that brings no woe be sent,

    And therewithal, content!

    Who spurns the shrine of Right, nor wealth nor power

    Shall be to him a tower,

    To guard him from the gulf: there lies his lot,

    Where all things are forgot.

  • 27

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    antistrophe 1antistrophe 1antistrophe 1antistrophe 1antistrophe 1

    Lust drives him on-lust, desperate and wild,

    Fate's sin-contriving child-

    And cure is none; beyond concealment clear,

    Kindles sin's baleful glare.

    As an ill coin beneath the wearing touch

    Betrays by stain and smutch

    Its metal false-such is the sinful wight.

    Before, on pinions light,

    Fair Pleasure flits, and lures him childlike on,

    While home and kin make moan

    Beneath the grinding burden of his crime;

    Till, in the end of time,

    Cast down of heaven, he pours forth fruitless prayer

    To powers that will not hear.

    And such did Paris come

    Unto Atreides' home,

    And thence, with sin and shame his welcome to repay,

    Ravished the wife away-

    strophe 2strophe 2strophe 2strophe 2strophe 2

    And she, unto her country and her kin

  • 28

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    Leaving the clash of shields and spears and arming ships,

    And bearing unto Troy destruction for a dower,

    And overbold in sin,

    Went fleetly thro' the gates, at midnight hour.

    Oft from the prophets' lips

    Moaned out the warning and the wail-Ah woe!

    Woe for the home, the home! and for the chieftains, woe!

    Woe for the bride-bed, warm

    Yet from the lovely limbs, the impress of the form

    Of her who loved her lord, awhile ago

    And woe! for him who stands

    Shamed, silent, unreproachful, stretching hands

    That find her not, and sees, yet will not see,

    That she is far away!

    And his sad fancy, yearning o'er the sea,

    Shall summon and recall

    Her wraith, once more to queen it in his hall.

    And sad with many memories,

    The fair cold beauty of each sculptured face-

    And all to hatefulness is turned their grace,

    Seen blankly by forlorn and hungering eyes!

  • 29

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    antistrophe 2antistrophe 2antistrophe 2antistrophe 2antistrophe 2

    And when the night is deep,

    Come visions, sweet and sad, and bearing pain

    Of hopings vain-

    Void, void and vain, for scarce the sleeping sight

    Has seen its old delight,

    When thro' the grasps of love that bid it stay

    It vanishes away

    On silent wings that roam adown the ways of sleep.

    Such are the sights, the sorrows fell,

    About our hearth-and worse, whereof I may not tell.

    But, all the wide town o'er,

    Each home that sent its master far away

    From Hellas' shore,

    Feels the keen thrill of heart, the pang of loss, to-day.

    For, truth to say,

    The touch of bitter death is manifold!

    Familiar was each face, and dear as life,

    That went unto the war,

    But thither, whence a warrior went of old,

    Doth nought return-

    Only a spear and sword, and ashes in an urn!

  • 30

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    strophe 3strophe 3strophe 3strophe 3strophe 3

    For Ares, lord of strife,

    Who doth the swaying scales of battle hold,

    War's money-changer, giving dust for gold,

    Sends back, to hearts that held them dear,

    Scant ash of warriors, wept with many a tear,

    Light to the band, but heavy to the soul;

    Yea, fills the light urn full

    With what survived the flame-

    Death's dusty measure of a hero's frame!

    Alas! one cries, and yet alas again!

    Our chief is gone, the hero of the spear,

    And hath not left his peer!

    Ah woe! another moans-my spouse is slain,

    The death of honour, rolled in dust and blood,

    Slain for a woman's sin, a false wife's shame!

    Such muttered words of bitter mood

    Rise against those who went forth to reclaim;

    Yea, jealous wrath creeps on against th' Atreides' name.

    And others, far beneath the Ilian wall,

    Sleep their last sleep-the goodly chiefs and tall,

    Couched in the foeman's land, whereon they gave

  • 31

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    Their breath, and lords of Troy, each in his Trojan grave.

    antistrophe 3antistrophe 3antistrophe 3antistrophe 3antistrophe 3

    Therefore for each and all the city's breast

    Is heavy with a wrath supprest,

    As deeply and deadly as a curse more loud

    Flung by the common crowd:

    And, brooding deeply, doth my soul await

    Tidings of coming fate,

    Buried as yet in darkness' womb.

    For not forgetful is the high gods' doom

    Against the sons of carnage: all too long

    Seems the unjust to prosper and be strong,

    Till the dark Furies come,

    And smite with stern reversal all his home,

    Down into dim obstruction-he is gone,

    And help and hope, among the lost, is none!

    O'er him who vaunteth an exceeding fame,

    Impends a woe condign;

    The vengeful bolt upon his eyes doth flame,

    Sped from the hand divine.

    This bliss be mine, ungrudged of God, to feel-

  • 32

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    To tread no city to the dust,

    Nor see my own life thrust

    Down to a glave's estate beneath another's heel!


    Behold, throughout the city wide

    Have the swift feet of Rumour hied,

    Roused by the joyful flame:

    But is the news they scatter, sooth?

    Or haply do they give for truth

    Some cheat which heaven doth frame?

    A child were he and all unwise,

    Who let his heart with joy be stirred.

    To see the beacon-fires arise,

    And then, beneath some thwarting word,

    Sicken anon with hope deferred.

    The edge of woman's insight still

    Good news from true divideth ill;

    Light rumours leap within the bound

    Then fences female credence round,

    But, lightly born, as lightly dies

    The tale that springs of her surmise. Several days are assumed to haveelapsed.

  • 33

    Aeschylus, agamemnon


    Soon shall we know whereof the bale-fires tell,

    The beacons, kindled with transmitted flame;

    Whether, as well I deem, their tale is true,

    Or whether like some dream delusive came

    The welcome blaze but to befool our soul.

    For lo! I see a herald from the shore

    Draw hither, shadowed with the olive-wreath-

    And thirsty dust, twin-brother of the clay,

    Speaks plain of travel far and truthful news-

    No dumb surmise, nor tongue of flame in smoke,

    Fitfully kindled from the mountain pyre;

    But plainlier shall his voice say, All is well,

    Or-but away, forebodings adverse, now,

    And on fair promise fair fulfilment come!

    And whoso for the state prays otherwise,

    Himself reap harvest of his ill desire!

    A HERALD enters. He is an advance messenger from AGAMEMNON'Sforces, which have just landed.


    O land of Argos, fatherland of mine!

    To thee at last, beneath the tenth year's sun,

    My feet return; the bark of my emprise,

    Tho' one by one hope's anchors broke away,

  • 34

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    Held by the last, and now rides safely here.

    Long, long my soul despaired to win, in death,

    Its longed-for rest within our Argive land:

    And now all hail, O earth, and hail to thee,

    New-risen sun! and hail our country's God,

    High-ruling Zeus, and thou, the Pythian lord,

    Whose arrows smote us once-smite thou no morel

    Was not thy wrath wreaked full upon our heads,

    O king Apollo, by Scamander's side?

    Turn thou, be turned, be saviour, healer, now

    And hail, all gods who rule the street and mart

    And Hermes hail! my patron and my pride,

    Herald of heaven, and lord of heralds here!

    And Heroes, ye who sped us on our way-

    To one and all I cry, Receive again

    With grace such Argives as the spear has spared.

    Ah, home of royalty, beloved halls,

    And solemn shrines, and gods that front the morn!

    Benign as erst, with sun-flushed aspect greet

    The king returning after many days.

    For as from night flash out the beams of day,

    So out of darkness dawns a light, a king,

    On you, on Argos-Agamemnon comes.

  • 35

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    Then hail and greet him well I such meed befits

    Him whose right hand hewed down the towers of Troy

    With the great axe of Zeus who righteth wrong-

    And smote the plain, smote down to nothingness

    Each altar, every shrine; and far and wide

    Dies from the whole land's face its offspring fair.

    Such mighty yoke of fate he set on Troy-

    Our lord and monarch, Atreus' elder son,

    And comes at last with blissful honour home;

    Highest of all who walk on earth to-day-

    Not Paris nor the city's self that paid

    Sin's price with him, can boast, Whate'er befall,

    The guerdon we have won outweighs it all.

    But at Fate's judgment-seat the robber stands

    Condemned of rapine, and his prey is torn

    Forth from his hands, and by his deed is reaped

    A bloody harvest of his home and land

    Gone down to death, and for his guilt and lust

    His father's race pays double in the dust.


    Hail, herald of the Greeks, new-come from war.


    All hail! not death itself can fright me now.

  • 36

    Aeschylus, agamemnon


    Was thine heart wrung with longing for thy land?


    So that this joy doth brim mine eyes with tears.


    On you too then this sweet distress did fall-


    How say'st thou? make me master of thy word.


    You longed for us who pined for you again.


    Craved the land us who craved it, love for love?


    Yea, till my brooding heart moaned out with pain.


    Whence thy despair, that mars the army's joy?


    Sole cure of wrong is silence, saith the saw.

  • 37

    Aeschylus, agamemnon


    Thy kings afar, couldst thou fear other men?


    Death had been sweet, as thou didst say but now.


    'Tis true; Fate smiles at last. Throughout our toil,

    These many years, some chances issued fair,

    And some, I wot, were chequered with a curse.

    But who, on earth, hath won the bliss of heaven,

    Thro' time's whole tenor an unbroken weal?

    I could a tale unfold of toiling oars,

    Ill rest, scant landings on a shore rock-strewn,

    All pains, all sorrows, for our daily doom.

    And worse and hatefuller our woes on land;

    For where we couched, close by the foeman's wall,

    The river-plain was ever dank with dews,

    Dropped from the sky, exuded from the earth,

    A curse that clung unto our sodden garb,

    And hair as horrent as a wild beast's fell.

    Why tell the woes of winter, when the birds

    Lay stark and stiff, so stern was Ida's snow?

    Or summer's scorch, what time the stirless wave

    Sank to its sleep beneath the noon-day sun?

  • 38

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    Why mourn old woes? their pain has passed away;

    And passed away, from those who fell, all care,

    For evermore, to rise and live again.

    Why sum the count of death, and render thanks

    For life by moaning over fate malign?

    Farewell, a long farewell to all our woes!

    To us, the remnant of the host of Greece,

    Comes weal beyond all counterpoise of woe;

    Thus boast we rightfully to yonder sun,

    Like him far-fleeted over sea and land.

    The Argive host prevailed to conquer Troy,

    And in the temples of the gods of Greece

    Hung up these spoils, a shining sign to Time.

    Let those who learn this legend bless aright

    The city and its chieftains, and repay

    The meed of gratitude to Zeus who willed

    And wrought the deed. So stands the tale fulfilled.


    Thy words o'erbear my doubt: for news of good,

    The ear of age hath ever youth enow:

    But those within and Clytemnestra's self

    Would fain hear all; glad thou their ears and mine.

    CLYTEMNESTRA enters from the palace.

  • 39

    Aeschylus, agamemnon


    That night, when first the fiery courier came,

    In sign that Troy is ta'en and razed to earth,

    So wild a cry of joy my lips gave out,

    That I was chidden-Hath the beacon watch

    Made sure unto thy soul the sack of Troy?

    A very woman thou, whose heart leaps light

    At wandering rumours!-and with words like these

    They showed me how I strayed, misled of hope.

    Yet on each shrine I set the sacrifice,

    And, in the strain they held for feminine,

    Went heralds thro' the city, to and fro,

    With voice of loud proclaim, announcing joy;

    And in each fane they lit and quenched with wine

    The spicy perfumes fading in the flame.

    All is fulfilled: I spare your longer tale-

    The king himself anon shall tell me all.

    Remains to think what honour best may greet

    My lord, the majesty of Argos, home.

    What day beams fairer on a woman's eyes

    Than this, whereon she flings the portal wide,

    To hail her lord, heaven-shielded, home from war?

    This to my husband, that he tarry not,

  • 40

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    But turn the city's longing into joy!

    Yea, let him come, and coming may he find

    A wife no other than he left her, true

    And faithful as a watch-dog to his home,

    His foemen's foe, in all her duties leal,

    Trusty to keep for ten long years unmarred

    The store whereon he set his master-seal.

    Be steel deep-dyed, before ye look to see

    Ill joy, ill fame, from other wight, in me!


    'Tis fairly said: thus speaks a noble dame,

    Nor speaks amiss, when truth informs the boast.

    CLYTEMNESTRA withdraws again into the palace.


    So has she spoken-be it yours to learn

    By clear interpreters her specious word.

    Turn to me, herald-tell me if anon

    The second well-loved lord of Argos comes?

    Hath Menelaus safely sped with you?


    Alas-brief boon unto my friends it were,

  • 41

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    To flatter them, for truth, with falsehoods fair!


    Speak joy, if truth be joy, but truth, at worst-

    Too plainly, truth and joy are here divorced.


    The hero and his bark were rapt away

    Far from the Grecian fleet; 'tis truth I say.


    Whether in all men's sight from Ilion borne,

    Or from the fleet by stress of weather torn?


    Full on the mark thy shaft of speech doth light,

    And one short word hath told long woes aright.


    But say, what now of him each comrade saith?

    What their forebodings, of his life or death?


    Ask me no more: the truth is known to none,

    Save the earth-fostering, all-surveying Sun.

  • 42

    Aeschylus, agamemnon


    Say, by what doom the fleet of Greece was driven?

    How rose, how sank the storm, the wrath of heaven?


    Nay, ill it were to mar with sorrow's tale

    The day of blissful news. The gods demand

    Thanksgiving sundered from solicitude.

    If one as herald came with rueful face

    To say, The curse has fallen, and the host

    Gone down to death; and one wide wound has reached

    The city's heart, and out of many homes

    Many are cast and consecrate to death,

    Beneath the double scourge, that Ares loves,

    The bloody pair, the fire and sword of doom-

    If such sore burden weighed upon my tongue,

    'Twere fit to speak such words as gladden fiends.

    But-coming as he comes who bringeth news

    Of safe return from toil, and issues fair,

    To men rejoicing in a weal restored-

    Dare I to dash good words with ill, and say

    For fire and sea, that erst held bitter feud,

    Now swore conspiracy and pledged their faith,

    Wasting the Argives worn with toil and war.

  • 43

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    Night and great horror of the rising wave

    Came o'er us, and the blasts that blow from Thrace

    Clashed ship with ship, and some with plunging prow

    Thro' scudding drifts of spray and raving storm

    Vanished, as strays by some ill shepherd driven.

    And when at length the sun rose bright, we saw

    Th' Aegaean sea-field flecked with flowers of death,

    Corpses of Grecian men and shattered hulls.

    For us indeed, some god, as well I deem,

    No human power, laid hand upon our helm,

    Snatched us or prayed us from the powers of air,

    And brought our bark thro'all, unharmed in hull:

    And saving Fortune sat and steered us fair,

    So that no surge should gulf us deep in brine,

    Nor grind our keel upon a rocky shore.

    So 'scaped we death that lurks beneath the sea,

    But, under day's white light, mistrustful all

    Of fortune's smile, we sat and brooded deep,

    Shepherds forlorn of thoughts that wandered wild

    O'er this new woe; for smitten was our host,

    And lost as ashes scattered from the pyre.

    Of whom if any draw his life-breath yet,

    Be well assured, he deems of us as dead,

  • 44

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    As we of him no other fate forebode.

    But heaven save all! If Menelaus live,

    He will not tarry, but will surely come:

    Therefore if anywhere the high sun's ray

    Descries him upon earth, preserved by Zeus,

    Who wills not yet to wipe his race away,

    Hope still there is that homeward he may wend.

    Enough-thou hast the truth unto the end.

    The HERALD departs.

    CHORUS singing strophe 1CHORUS singing strophe 1CHORUS singing strophe 1CHORUS singing strophe 1CHORUS singing strophe 1

    Say, from whose lips the presage fell?

    Who read the future all too well,

    And named her, in her natal hour,

    Helen, the bride with war for dower

    'Twas one of the Invisible,

    Guiding his tongue with prescient power.

    On fleet, and host, and citadel,

    War, sprung from her, and death did lour,

    When from the bride-bed's fine-spun veil

    She to the Zephyr spread her sail.

    Strong blew the breeze-the surge closed oer

    The cloven track of keel and oar,

    But while she fled, there drove along,

  • 45

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    Fast in her wake, a mighty throng-

    Athirst for blood, athirst for war,

    Forward in fell pursuit they sprung,

    Then leapt on Simois' bank ashore,

    The leafy coppices among-

    No rangers, they, of wood and field,

    But huntsmen of the sword and shield.

    antistrophe 1antistrophe 1antistrophe 1antistrophe 1antistrophe 1

    Heaven's jealousy, that works its will,

    Sped thus on Troy its destined ill,

    Well named, at once, the Bride and Bane;

    And loud rang out the bridal strain;

    But they to whom that song befell

    Did turn anon to tears again;

    Zeus tarries, but avenges still

    The husband's wrong, the household's stain!

    He, the hearth's lord, brooks not to see

    Its outraged hospitality.

    Even now, and in far other tone,

    Troy chants her dirge of mighty moan,

    Woe upon Paris, woe and hate!

  • 46

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    Who wooed his country's doom for mate-

    This is the burthen of the groan,

    Wherewith she wails disconsolate

    The blood, so many of her own

    Have poured in vain, to fend her fate;

    Troy! thou hast fed and freed to roam

    A lion-cub within thy home!

    strophe 2strophe 2strophe 2strophe 2strophe 2

    A suckling creature, newly ta'en

    From mother's teat, still fully fain

    Of nursing care; and oft caressed,

    Within the arms, upon the breast,

    Even as an infant, has it lain;

    Or fawns and licks, by hunger pressed,

    The hand that will assuage its pain;

    In life's young dawn, a well-loved guest,

    A fondling for the children's play,

    A joy unto the old and grey.

    antistrophe 2antistrophe 2antistrophe 2antistrophe 2antistrophe 2

    But waxing time and growth betrays

    The blood-thirst of the lion-race,

  • 47

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    And, for the house's fostering care,

    Unbidden all, it revels there,

    And bloody recompense repays-

    Rent flesh of kine, its talons tare:

    A mighty beast, that slays, and slays,

    And mars with blood the household fair,

    A God-sent pest invincible,

    A minister of fate and hell.

    strophe 3strophe 3strophe 3strophe 3strophe 3

    Even so to Ilion's city came by stealth

    A spirit as of windless seas and skies,

    A gentle phantom-form of joy and wealth,

    With love's soft arrows speeding from its eyes-

    Love's rose, whose thorn doth pierce the soul in subtle wise.

    Ah, well-a-day! the bitter bridal-bed,

    When the fair mischief lay by Paris' side!

    What curse on palace and on people sped

    With her, the Fury sent on Priam's pride,

    By angered Zeus! what tears of many a widowed bride!

  • 48

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    antistrophe 3antistrophe 3antistrophe 3antistrophe 3antistrophe 3

    Long, long ago to mortals this was told,

    How sweet security and blissful state

    Have curses for their children-so men hold-

    And for the man of all-too prosperous fate

    Springs from a bitter seed some woe insatiate.

    Alone, alone, I deem far otherwise;

    Not bliss nor wealth it is, but impious deed,

    From which that after-growth of ill doth rise!

    Woe springs from wrong, the plant is like the seed-

    While Right, in honour's house, doth its own likeness breed.

    strophe 4strophe 4strophe 4strophe 4strophe 4

    Some past impiety, some grey old crime,

    Breeds the young curse, that wantons in our ill,

    Early or late, when haps th'appointed time-

    And out of light brings power of darkness still,

    A master-fiend, a foe, unseen, invincible;

    A pride accursed, that broods upon the race

    And home in which dark Ate holds her sway-

    Sin's child and Woe's, that wears its parents' face;

  • 49

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    antistrophe 4antistrophe 4antistrophe 4antistrophe 4antistrophe 4

    While Right in smoky cribs shines clear as day,

    And decks with weal his life, who walks the righteous way.

    From gilded halls, that hands polluted raise,

    Right turns away with proud averted eyes,

    And of the wealth, men stamp amiss with praise,

    Heedless, to poorer, holier temples hies,

    And to Fate's goal guides all, in its appointed wise.

    AGAMEMNON enters, riding in a chariot and accompanied by a greatprocession. CASSANDRA follows in another chariot. The CHORUS sings itswelcome.

    Hail to thee, chief of Atreus' race,

    Returning proud from Troy subdued!

    How shall I greet thy conquering face?

    How nor a fulsome praise obtrude,

    Nor stint the meed of gratitude?

    For mortal men who fall to ill

    Take little heed of open truth,

    But seek unto its semblance still:

    The show of weeping and of ruth

    To the forlorn will all men pay,

    But, of the grief their eyes display,

  • 50

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    Nought to the heart doth pierce its way.

    And, with the joyous, they beguile

    Their lips unto a feigned smile,

    And force a joy, unfelt the while;

    But he who as a shepherd wise

    Doth know his flock, can ne'er misread

    Truth in the falsehood of his eyes,

    Who veils beneath a kindly guise

    A lukewarm love in deed.

    And thou, our leader-when of yore

    Thou badest Greece go forth to war

    For Helen's sake-I dare avow

    That then I held thee not as now;

    That to my vision thou didst seem

    Dyed in the hues of disesteem.

    I held thee for a pilot ill,

    And reckless, of thy proper will,

    Endowing others doomed to die

    With vain and forced audacity!

    Now from my heart, ungrudgingly,

    To those that wrought, this word be said-

    Well fall the labour ye have sped-

    Let time and search, O king, declare

    What men within thy city's bound

  • 51

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    Were loyal to the kingdom's care,

    And who were faithless found.

    AGAMEMNON still standing in the chariotAGAMEMNON still standing in the chariotAGAMEMNON still standing in the chariotAGAMEMNON still standing in the chariotAGAMEMNON still standing in the chariot

    First, as is meet, a king's All-hail be said

    To Argos, and the gods that guard the land-

    Gods who with me availed to speed us home,

    With me availed to wring from Priam's town

    The due of justice. In the court of heaven

    The gods in conclave sat and judged the cause,

    Not from a pleader's tongue, and at the close,

    Unanimous into the urn of doom

    This sentence gave, On Ilion and her men,

    Death: and where hope drew nigh to pardon's urn

    No hand there was to cast a vote therein.

    And still the smoke of fallen Ilion

    Rises in sight of all men, and the flame

    Of Ate's hecatomb is living yet,

    And where the towers in dusty ashes sink,

    Rise the rich fumes of pomp and wealth consumed

    For this must all men pay unto the gods

    The meed of mindful hearts and gratitude:

    For by our hands the meshes of revenge

    Closed on the prey, and for one woman's sake

  • 52

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    Troy trodden by the Argive monster lies-

    The foal, the shielded band that leapt the wall,

    What time with autumn sank the Pleiades.

    Yea, o'er the fencing wall a lion sprang

    Ravening, and lapped his fill of blood of kings.

    Such prelude spoken to the gods in full,

    To you I turn, and to the hidden thing

    Whereof ye spake but now: and in that thought

    I am as you, and what ye say, say I.

    For few are they who have such inborn grace,

    As to look up with love, and envy not,

    When stands another on the height of weal.

    Deep in his heart, whom jealousy hath seized,

    Her poison lurking doth enhance his load;

    For now beneath his proper woes he chafes,

    And sighs withal to see another's weal.

    I speak not idly, but from knowledge sure-

    There be who vaunt an utter loyalty,

    That is but as the ghost of friendship dead,

    A shadow in a glass, of faith gone by.

    One only-he who went reluctant forth

    Across the seas with me-Odysseus-he

  • 53

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    Was loyal unto me with strength and will,

    A trusty trace-horse bound unto my car.

    Thus-be he yet beneath the light of day,

    Or dead, as well I fear-I speak his praise.

    Lastly, whate'er be due to men or gods,

    With joint debate, in public council held,

    We will decide, and warily contrive

    That all which now is well may so abide:

    For that which haply needs the healer's art,

    That will we medicine, discerning well

    If cautery or knife befit the time.

    Now, to my palace and the shrines of home,

    I will pass in, and greet you first and fair,

    Ye gods, who bade me forth, and home again-

    And long may Victory tarry in my train!

    CLYTEMNESTRA enters from the palace, followed by maidens bearingcrimson robes.


    Old men of Argos, lieges of our realm,

    Shame shall not bid me shrink lest ye should see

    The love I bear my lord. Such blushing fear

  • 54

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    Dies at the last from hearts of human kind.

    From mine own soul and from no alien lips,

    I know and will reveal the life I bore.

    Reluctant, through the lingering livelong years,

    The while my lord beleaguered Ilion's wall.

    First, that a wife sat sundered from her lord,

    In widowed solitude, was utter woe

    And woe, to hear how rumour's many tongues

    All boded evil-woe, when he who came

    And he who followed spake of ill on ill,

    Keening Lost, lost, all lost! thro' hall and bower.

    Had this my husband met so many wounds,

    As by a thousand channels rumour told,

    No network e'er was full of holes as he.

    Had he been slain, as oft as tidings came

    That he was dead, he well might boast him now

    A second Geryon of triple frame,

    With triple robe of earth above him laid-

    For that below, no matter-triply dead,

    Dead by one death for every form he bore.

    And thus distraught by news of wrath and woe,

    Oft for self-slaughter had I slung the noose,

    But others wrenched it from my neck away.

  • 55

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    Hence haps it that Orestes, thine and mine,

    The pledge and symbol of our wedded troth,

    Stands not beside us now, as he should stand.

    Nor marvel thou at this: he dwells with one

    Who guards him loyally; 'tis Phocis' king,

    Strophius, who warned me erst, Bethink thee, queen,

    What woes of doubtful issue well may fall

    Thy lord in daily jeopardy at Troy,

    While here a populace uncurbed may cry,

    "Down witk the council, down!" bethink thee too,

    'Tis the world's way to set a harder heel

    On fallen power.

    For thy child's absence then

    Such mine excuse, no wily afterthought.

    For me, long since the gushing fount of tears

    Is wept away; no drop is left to shed.

    Dim are the eyes that ever watched till dawn,

    Weeping, the bale-fires, piled for thy return,

    Night after night unkindled. If I slept,

    Each sound-the tiny humming of a gnat,

    Roused me again, again, from fitful dreams

    Wherein I felt thee smitten, saw thee slain,

    Thrice for each moment of mine hour of sleep.

  • 56

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    All this I bore, and now, released from woe,

    I hail my lord as watch-dog of a fold,

    As saving stay-rope of a storm-tossed ship,

    As column stout that holds the roof aloft,

    As only child unto a sire bereaved,

    As land beheld, past hope, by crews forlorn,

    As sunshine fair when tempest's wrath is past,

    As gushing spring to thirsty wayfarer.

    So sweet it is to 'scape the press of pain.

    With such salute I bid my husband hail

    Nor heaven be wroth therewith! for long and hard

    I bore that ire of old.

    Sweet lord, step forth,

    Step from thy car, I pray-nay, not on earth

    Plant the proud foot, O king, that trod down Troy!

    Women! why tarry ye, whose task it is

    To spread your monarch's path with tapestry?

    Swift, swift, with purple strew his passage fair,

    That justice lead him to a home, at last,

    He scarcely looked to see. The attendant women spread the tapestry. Forwhat remains,

    Zeal unsubdued by sleep shall nerve my hand

  • 57

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    To work as right and as the gods command.

    AGAMEMNON still in the chariotAGAMEMNON still in the chariotAGAMEMNON still in the chariotAGAMEMNON still in the chariotAGAMEMNON still in the chariot

    Daughter of Leda, watcher o'er my home,

    Thy greeting well befits mine absence long,

    For late and hardly has it reached its end.

    Know, that the praise which honour bids us crave,

    Must come from others' lips, not from our own:

    See too that not in fashion feminine

    Thou make a warrior's pathway delicate;

    Not unto me, as to some Eastern lord,

    Bowing thyself to earth, make homage loud.

    Strew not this purple that shall make each step

    An arrogance; such pomp beseems the gods,

    Not me. A mortal man to set his foot

    On these rich dyes? I hold such pride in fear,

    And bid thee honour me as man, not god.

    Fear not-such footcloths and all gauds apart,

    Loud from the trump of Fame my name is blown;

    Best gift of heaven it is, in glory's hour,

    To think thereon with soberness: and thou-

    Bethink thee of the adage, Call none blest

    Till peaceful death have crowned a life of weal.

    'Tis said: I fain would fare unvexed by fear.

  • 58

    Aeschylus, agamemnon


    Nay, but unsay it-thwart not thou my will!


    Know, I have said, and will not mar my word.


    Was it fear made this meekness to the gods?


    If cause be cause, 'tis mine for this resolve.


    What, think'st thou, in thy place had Priam done?


    He surely would have walked on broidered robes.


    Then fear not thou the voice of human blame.


    Yet mighty is the murmur of a crowd.


    Shrink not from envy, appanage of bliss.

  • 59

    Aeschylus, agamemnon


    War is not woman's part, nor war of words.


    Yet happy victors well may yield therein.


    Dost crave for triumph in this petty strife?


    Yield; of thy grace permit me to prevail!


    Then, if thou wilt, let some one stoop to loose

    Swiftly these sandals, slaves beneath my foot;

    And stepping thus upon the sea's rich dye,

    I pray, Let none among the gods look down

    With jealous eye on me-reluctant all,

    To trample thus and mar a thing of price,

    Wasting the wealth of garments silver-worth.

    Enough hereof: and, for the stranger maid,

    Lead her within, but gently: God on high

    Looks graciously on him whom triumph's hour

    Has made not pitiless. None willingly

    Wear the slave's yoke-and she, the prize and flower

    Of all we won, comes hither in my train,

  • 60

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    Gift of the army to its chief and lord.

    -Now, since in this my will bows down to thine,

    I will pass in on purples to my home.

    He descends from the chariot, and moves towards the palace.


    A Sea there is-and who shall stay its springs?

    And deep within its breast, a mighty store,

    Precious as silver, of the purple dye,

    Whereby the dipped robe doth its tint renew.

    Enough of such, O king, within thy halls

    There lies, a store that cannot fail; but I-

    I would have gladly vowed unto the gods

    Cost of a thousand garments trodden thus,

    (Had once the oracle such gift required)

    Contriving ransom for thy life preserved.

    For while the stock is firm the foliage climbs,

    Spreading a shade, what time the dog-star glows;

    And thou, returning to thine hearth and home,

    Art as a genial warmth in winter hours,

    Or as a coolness, when the lord of heaven

    Mellows the juice within the bitter grape.

    Such boons and more doth bring into a home

    The present footstep of its proper lord.

  • 61

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    Zeus, Zeus, Fulfilment's lord! my vows fulfil,

    And whatsoe'er it be, work forth thy will!

    She follows AGAMEMNON into the palace.

    CHORUS singing strophe 1CHORUS singing strophe 1CHORUS singing strophe 1CHORUS singing strophe 1CHORUS singing strophe 1

    Wherefore for ever on the wings of fear

    Hovers a vision drear

    Before my boding heart? a strain,

    Unbidden and unwelcome, thrills mine ear,

    Oracular of pain.

    Not as of old upon my bosom's throne

    Sits Confidence, to spurn

    Such fears, like dreams we know not to discern.

    Old, old and grey long since the time has grown,

    Which saw the linked cables moor

    The fleet, when erst it came to Ilion's sandy shore;

    antistrophe 1antistrophe 1antistrophe 1antistrophe 1antistrophe 1

    And now mine eyes and not another's see

    Their safe return.

    Yet none the less in me

    The inner spirit sings a boding song,

  • 62

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    Self-prompted, sings the Furies' strain-

    And seeks, and seeks in vain,

    To hope and to be strong!

    Ah! to some end of Fate, unseen, unguessed,

    Are these wild throbbings of my heart and breast-

    Yea, of some doom they tell-

    Each pulse, a knell.

    Lief, lief I were, that all

    To unfulfilment's hidden realm might fall.

    strophe 2strophe 2strophe 2strophe 2strophe 2

    Too far, too far our mortal spirits strive,

    Grasping at utter weal, unsatisfied-

    Till the fell curse, that dwelleth hard beside,

    Thrust down the sundering wall. Too fair they blow,

    The gales that waft our bark on Fortune's tide!

    Swiftly we sail, the sooner an to drive

    Upon the hidden rock, the reef of woe.

    Then if the hand of caution warily

    Sling forth into the sea

    Part of the freight, lest all should sink below,

    From the deep death it saves the bark: even so,

  • 63

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    Doom-laden though it be, once more may rise

    His household, who is timely wise.

    How oft the famine-stricken field

    Is saved by God's large gift, the new year's yield!

    antistrophe 2antistrophe 2antistrophe 2antistrophe 2antistrophe 2

    But blood of man once spilled,

    Once at his feet shed forth, and darkening the plain,-

    Nor chant nor charm can call it back again.

    So Zeus hath willed:

    Else had he spared the leech Asclepius, skilled

    To bring man from the dead: the hand divine

    Did smite himself with death-a warning and a sign-

    Ah me! if Fate, ordained of old,

    Held not the will of gods constrained, controlled,

    Helpless to us-ward, and apart-

    Swifter than speech my heart

    Had poured its presage out!

    Now, fretting, chafing in the dark of doubt,

    'Tis hopeless to unfold

  • 64

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    Truth, from fear's tangled skein; and, yearning to proclaim

    Its thought, my soul is prophecy and flame.

    CLYTEMNESTRA comes out of the palace and addresses CASSANDRA,who has remained motionless in her chariot.


    Get thee within thou too, Cassandra, go!

    For Zeus to thee in gracious mercy grants

    To share the sprinklings of the lustral bowl,

    Beside the altar of his guardianship,

    Slave among many slaves. What, haughty still?

    Step from the car; Alcmena's son, 'tis said,

    Was sold perforce and bore the yoke of old.

    Ay, hard it is, but, if such fate befall,

    'Tis a fair chance to serve within a home

    Of ancient wealth and power. An upstart lord,

    To whom wealth's harvest came beyond his hope,

    Is as a lion to his slaves, in all

    Exceeding fierce, immoderate in sway.

    Pass in: thou hearest what our ways will be.


    Clear unto thee, O maid, is her command,

    But thou-within the toils of Fate thou art-

    If such thy will, I urge thee to obey;

  • 65

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    Yet I misdoubt thou dost nor hear nor heed.


    I wot-unless like swallows she doth use

    Some strange barbarian tongue from oversea-

    My words must speak persuasion to her soul.


    Obey: there is no gentler way than this.

    Step from the car's high seat and follow her.


    Truce to this bootless waiting here without!

    I will not stay: beside the central shrine

    The victims stand, prepared for knife and fire-

    Offerings from hearts beyond all hope made glad.

    Thou-if thou reckest aught of my command,

    'Twere well done soon: but if thy sense be shut

    From these my words, let thy barbarian hand

    Fulfil by gesture the default of speech.


    No native is she, thus to read thy words

    Unaided: like some wild thing of the wood,

    New-trapped, behold! she shrinks and glares on thee.

  • 66

    Aeschylus, agamemnon


    'Tis madness and the rule of mind distraught,

    Since she beheld her city sink in fire,

    And hither comes, nor brooks the bit, until

    In foam and blood her wrath be champed away.

    See ye to her; unqueenly 'tis for me,

    Unheeded thus to cast away my words.

    CLYTEMNESTRA enters the palace.


    But with me pity sits in anger's place.

    Poor maiden, come thou from the car; no way

    There is but this-take up thy servitude.

    CASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chanting

    Woe, woe, alas! Earth, Mother Earth! and thou

    Apollo, Apollo!


    Peace! shriek not to the bright prophetic god,

    Who will not brook the suppliance of woe.

    CASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chanting

    Woe, woe, alas! Earth, Mother Earth! and thou

    Apollo, Apollo!

  • 67

    Aeschylus, agamemnon


    Hark, with wild curse she calls anew on him,

    Who stands far off and loathes the voice of wail.

    CASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chanting

    Apollo, Apollo!

    God of all ways, but only Death's to me,

    Once and again, O thou, Destroyer named,

    Thou hast destroyed me, thou, my love of old!


    She grows presageful of her woes to come,

    Slave tho' she be, instinct with prophecy.

    CASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chanting

    Apollo, Apollo!

    God of all ways, but only Death's to me,

    O thou Apollo, thou Destroyer named!

    What way hast led me, to what evil home?


    Know'st thou it not? The home of Atreus' race:

    Take these my words for sooth and ask no more.

  • 68

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    CASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chanting

    Home cursed of God! Bear witness unto me,

    Ye visioned woes within-

    The blood-stained hands of them that smite their kin-

    The strangling noose, and, spattered o'er

    With human blood, the reeking floor!


    How like a sleuth-hound questing on the track,

    Keen-scented unto blood and death she hies!

    CASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chanting

    Ah! can the ghostly guidance fail,

    Whereby my prophet-soul is onwards led?

    Look! for their flesh the spectre-children wail,

    Their sodden limbs on which their father fed!


    Long since we knew of thy prophetic fame,-

    But for those deeds we seek no prophet's tongue-


    chanting God! 'tis another crime-

    Worse than the storied woe of olden time,

    Cureless, abhorred, that one is plotting here-

  • 69

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    A shaming death, for those that should be dear

    Alas! and far away, in foreign land,

    He that should help doth stand!


    I knew th' old tales, the city rings withal-

    But now thy speech is dark, beyond my ken.

    CASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chanting

    O wretch, O purpose fell!

    Thou for thy wedded lord

    The cleansing wave hast poured-

    A treacherous welcome

    How the sequel tell?

    Too soon 'twill come, too soon, for now, even now,

    She smites him, blow on blow!


    Riddles bcyond my rede--I peer in vain

    Thro' the dim films that screen the prophecy

    CASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chanting

    God! a new sight! a net, a snare of hell,

    Set by her hand--herself a snare more fell

    A wedded wife, she slays her lord,

  • 70

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    Helped by another hand!

    Ye powers, whose hate

    Of Atreus' home no blood can satiate,

    Raise the wild cry above the sacrifice abhorred!

    CHORUS chantingCHORUS chantingCHORUS chantingCHORUS chantingCHORUS chanting

    Why biddest thou some hend, I know not whom,

    Shriek o'er the house? Thine is no cheering word.

    Back to my heart in frozen fear I feel

    My wanning life-blood run-- The blood that round the wounding steel

    Ebbs slow, as sinks life's parting sun--

    Swift, swift and sure, some woe comes pressing on.

    CASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chanting

    Away, away--keep him away--

    The monarch of the herd, the pasture's pride,

    Far from his mate! In treach'rous wrath,

    Muffling his swarthy horns, with secret scathe

    She gores his fenceless side! Hark ! in the brimming bath,

    The heavy plash--the dying cry--

    Hark--in the laver--hark, he falls by treachery!

    CHORUS chantingCHORUS chantingCHORUS chantingCHORUS chantingCHORUS chanting

    I read amiss dark sayings such as thine,

    Yet something warns me that they tell of ill,

  • 71

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    O dark prophetic speech, Ill tidings dost thou teach

    Ever, to mortals here below! Ever some tale of awe and woe

    Thro' all thy windings manifold Do we unriddle and unfold!

    CASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chanting

    Ah well-a-day! the cup of agony,

    Whereof I chant, foams with a draught for me

    Ah lord, ah leader, thou hast led me here--

    Was't but to die with thee whose doom is near?

    CHORUS chantingCHORUS chantingCHORUS chantingCHORUS chantingCHORUS chanting

    Distraught thou art, divinely stirred,

    And wailest for thyself a tuneless lay,

    As piteous as the ceaseless tale

    Wherewith the brown melodious bird

    Doth ever Itys! Itys! wail,

    Deep-bowered in sorrow, all its little life-time's day!

    CASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chanting

    Ah for thy fate, O shrill-voiced nightingale!

    Some solace for thy woes did Heaven afford,

    Clothed thee with soft brown plumes, and life apart from wail--

    But for my death is edged the double-biting sword!

  • 72

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    CHORUS chantingCHORUS chantingCHORUS chantingCHORUS chantingCHORUS chanting

    What pangs are these, what fruitless pain,

    Sent on thee from on high?

    Thou chantest terror's frantic strain,

    Yet in shrill measured melody.

    How thus unerring canst thou sweep along

    The prophet's path of boding song?

    CASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chanting

    Woe, Paris, woe on thee! thy bridal joy

    Was death and fire upon thy race and Troy!

    And woe for thee, Scamander's flood!

    Beside thy banks, O river fair,

    I grew in tender nursing care

    From childhood unto maidenhood!

    Now not by thine, but by Cocytus' stream

    And Acheron's banks shall ring my boding scream.

    CHORUS chantingCHORUS chantingCHORUS chantingCHORUS chantingCHORUS chanting

    Too plain is all, too plain!

    A child might read aright thy fateful strain.

    Deep in my heart their piercing fang

    Terror and sorrow set, the while I heard

    That piteous, low, tender word,

    Yet to mine ear and heart a crushing pang.

  • 73

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    CASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chantingCASSANDRA chanting

    Woe for my city, woe for Ilion's fall!

    Father, how oft with sanguine stain

    Streamed on thine altar-stone the blood of cattle, slain

    That heaven might guard our wall!

    But all was shed in vain.

    Low lie the shattered towers whereas they fell,

    And I--ah burning heart!--shall soon lie low as well.

    CHORUS chantingCHORUS chantingCHORUS chantingCHORUS chantingCHORUS chanting

    Of sorrow is thy song, of sorrow still!

    Alas, what power of ill

    Sits heavy on thy heart and bids thee tell

    In tears of perfect moan thy deadly tale?

    Some woe--I know not what--must close thy pious wail.

    CASSANDRA more calmlyCASSANDRA more calmlyCASSANDRA more calmlyCASSANDRA more calmlyCASSANDRA more calmly

    List! for no more the presage of my soul,

    Bride-like, shall peer from its secluding veil;

    But as the morning wind blows clear the east,

    More bright shall blow the wind of prophecy,

    And as against the low bright line of dawn

    Heaves high and higher yet the rolling wave,

    So in the clearing skies of prescience

    Dawns on my soul a further, deadlier woe,

  • 74

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    And I will speak, but in dark speech no more.

    Bear witness, ye, and follow at my side--

    I scent the trail of blood, shed long ago.

    Within this house a choir abidingly

    Chants in harsh unison the chant of ill;

    Yea, and they drink, for more enhardened joy,

    Man's blood for wine, and revel in the halls,

    Departing never, Furies of the home.

    They sit within, they chant the primal curse,

    Each spitting hatred on that crime of old,

    The brother's couch, the love incestuous

    That brought forth hatred to the ravisher.

    Say, is my speech or wild and erring now,

    Or doth its arrow cleave the mark indeed?

    They called me once, The prophetess of lies,

    The wandering hag, the pest of every door--

    Attest ye now, She knows in very sooth

    The house's curse, the storied infamy.


    Yet how should oath--how loyally soe'er

    I swear it--aught avail thee? In good sooth,

    My wonder meets thy claim: I stand amazed

    That thou, a maiden born beyond the seas,

  • 75

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    Dost as a native know and tell aright

    Tales of a city of an alien tongue.


    That is my power--a boon Apollo gave.


    God though he were, yearning for mortal maid?


    Ay! what seemed shame of old is shame no more.


    Such finer sense suits not with slavery.


    He strove to win me, panting for my love.


    Came ye by compact unto bridal joys?


    Nay--for I plighted troth, then foiled the god.


    Wert thou already dowered with prescience?

  • 76

    Aeschylus, agamemnon


    Yea--prophetess to Troy of all her doom.


    How left thee then Apollo's wrath unscathed?


    I, false to him, seemed prophet false to all.


    Not so--to us at least thy words seem sooth.


    Woe for me, woe! Again the agony--

    Dread pain that sees the future all too well

    With ghastly preludes whirls and racks my soul.

    Behold ye--yonder on the palace roof

    The spectre-children sitting--look, such things

    As dreams are made on, phantoms as of babes,

    Horrible shadows, that a kinsman's hand

    Hath marked with murder, and their arms are full--

    A rueful burden--see, they hold them up,

    The entrails upon which their father fed!

    For this, for this, I say there plots revenge

    A coward lion, couching in the lair--

  • 77

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    Guarding the gate against my master's foot--

    My master--mine--I bear the slave's yoke now,

    And he, the lord of ships, who trod down Troy,

    Knows not the fawning treachery of tongue

    Of this thing false and dog-like--how her speech

    Glozes and sleeks her purpose, till she win

    By ill fate's favour the desired chance,

    Moving like Ate to a secret end.

    O aweless soul! the woman slays her lord--

    Woman? what loathsome monster of the earth

    Were fit comparison? The double snake--

    Or Scylla, where she dwells, the seaman s bane,

    Girt round about with rocks? some hag of hell,

    Raving a truceless curse upon her kin?

    Hark even now she cries exultingly

    The vengeful cry that tells of battle turned--

    How fain, forsooth, to greet her chief restored!

    Nay then, believe me not: what skills belief

    Or disbelief ? Fate works its will--and thou

    Wilt see and say in ruth, Her tale was true.


    Ah--'tis Thyestes' feast on kindred flesh--

    I guess her meaning and with horror thrill,

  • 78

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    Hearing no shadow'd hint of th' o'er-true tale,

    But its full hatefulness: yet, for the rest,

    Far from the track I roam, and know no more.


    'Tis Agamemnon's doom thou shalt behold.


    Peace hapless woman, to thy boding words!


    Far from my speech stands he who sains and saves.


    Ay-- were such a doom at hand-- which God forbid!


    Thou prayest idly--these move swift to slay.


    What man prepares a deed of such despite?


    Fool! thus to read amiss mine oracles.

  • 79

    Aeschylus, agamemnon


    Deviser and device are dark to me.


    Dark! all too well I speak the Grecian tongue.


    Ay--but in thine, as in Apollo's strains,

    Familiar is the tongue, but dark the thought.


    Ah, ah the fire! it waxes, nears me now--

    Woe, woe for me, Apollo of the dawn!

    Lo, how the woman-thing, the lioness

    Couched with the wolf--her noble mate afar--

    Will slay me, slave forlorn! Yea, like some witch,

    She drugs the cup of wrath, that slays her lord,

    With double death--his recompense for me!

    Ay, 'tis for me, the prey he bore from Troy,

    That she hath sworn his death, and edged the steel!

    Ye wands, ye wreaths that cling around my neck,

    Ye showed me prophetess yet scorned of all--

    I stamp you into death, or e'er I die--

    Down, to destruction! Thus I stand revenged--

    Go, crown some other with a prophet's woe.

  • 80

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    Lookl it is he, it is Apollo's self

    Rending from me the prophet-robe he gave.

    God! while I wore it yet, thou saw'st me mocked

    There at my home by each malicious mouth--

    To all and each, an undivided scorn.

    The name alike and fate of witch and cheat--

    Woe, poverty, and famine--all I bore;

    And at this last the god hath brought me here

    Into death's toils, and what his love had made,

    His hate unmakes me now: and I shall stand

    Not now before the altar of my home,

    But me a slaughter-house and block of blood

    Shall see hewn down, a reeking sacrifice.

    Yet shall the gods have heed of me who die,

    For by their will shall one requite my doom.

    He, to avenge his father's blood outpoured,

    Shall smite and slay with matricidal hand.

    Ay, he shall come--tho' far away he roam,

    A banished wanderer in a stranger's land--

    To crown his kindred's edifice of ill,

    Called home to vengeance by his father's fall:

    Thus have the high gods sworn, and shall fulfil.

    And now why mourn I, tarrying on earth,

    Since first mine Ilion has found its fate

  • 81

    Aeschylus, agamemnon

    And I beheld, and those who won the wall

    Pass to such issue as the gods ordain?

    I too will pass and like them dare to die!

    She turns and looks upon the palace door.

    Portal of Hades, thus I bid thee hail!

    Grant me one boon--a swift and mortal stroke,

    That all unwrung by pain, with ebbing blood

    Shed forth in quiet death, I close mine eyes.


    Maid of mysterious woes, mysterious lore,

    Long was thy prophecy: but if aright

    Thou readest all thy fate, how, thus unscared,

    Dost thou approach the altar of thy doom,

    As fronts the knife some victim, heaven controlled?


    Friends, there is no avoidance in delay.


    Yet who delays the longest, his the gain.


    The day is come--flight were small gain to me!

  • 82

    Aeschylus, agamemnon


    O brave endurance of a soul resolved!


    That were ill praise, for those of happier doom.


    All fame is happy, even famous death.


    Ah sire, ah brethren, famous once were ye! She moves to enter the house,then starts back.


    What fear is this that scares thee from the house?




    What is this cry? some dark despair of soul?


    Pah! the house fumes with stench and spilth of blood.

  • 83

    Aeschylus, agamemnon


    How? 'tis the smell of household offerings.


    'Tis rank as charnel-scent from open graves.


    Thou canst not mean this scented Syrian nard?


    Nay, let me pass within to cry aloud

    The monarch's fate and mine-- enough of life.

    Ah friends!

    Bear to me witness, since I fall in death,

    That not as birds that shun the bush and scream

    I moan in idle terror. This attest

    When for my death's revenge another dies,

    A woman for a woman, and a man

    Falls, for a man ill-wedded to his curse.

    Grant me this boon--the last before I die.


    Brave to the last! I mourn thy doom foreseen.

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    Aeschylus, agamemnon


    Once more one utterance, but not of wail,

    Though for my death--and then I speak no more.